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  February 20th, 2015 | Written by

On Track For Savings

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As Crowley Maritime Corp. and its customers are quickly finding out, having Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) facilities proximate to South Florida port docks can deliver time and money savings and result in environmental benefits.

Before FECR’s 43-acre intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF) opened last summer adjacent to Crowley’s Port Everglades marine terminal, drayage trucks had to shuttle cargo containers back and forth between berth areas and an off-port rail yard using miles of clogged public roadways.

The draying typically meant delays and added costs for shippers, plus a lot of air pollution. In fact, Port Everglades officials say that, in addition to moving cargo faster and less expensively, the ICTF’s near-dock presence will, by 2029, take an estimated 180,000 truck trips a year off local roads and thus significantly reduce harmful carbon emissions.

“As one of the FECR’s largest intermodal customers, the location of the new ICTF is a win-win, not only for Crowley but also for our shipping and logistics customers who are now benefiting from faster and more efficient cargo handling,” says Bob Weist, a vice president of Crowley, which, like FECR, is based in Jacksonville, Fla., near the north end of the Class II railroad’s 351-mile corridor.

According to port officials, the ICTF allows FECR to increase its intermodal capacity at Port Everglades to 450,000 lifts a year from a prior 100,000 annual moves. That’s important because container traffic is on the rise at Port Everglades; in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, the port topped the 1 million 20-foot-equivalent-container-unit mark for the first time and is expected to grow even more following the 2016 completion of the Panama Canal expansion.

Weist notes that shippers of outside-the-box freight gain from the near-dock ICTF in addition to those moving containers. “Our breakbulk and out-of-gauge customers are particularly enthusiastic about being able to have their cargo off the ship and on the rail in a fraction of the time,” he says. “That’s good for everyone.”

Of the ICTF’s total $72 million price tag, $48 million came from state grant and loan funds, $19 million was the value of land contributed by Broward County’s Port Everglades, and $5 million was from FECR’s capital plan.

“Customers can reduce costs and achieve faster delivery through multimodal solutions and the availability of on-dock or near-dock rail,” says FECR’s president and chief executive officer, James R. Hertwig.

At South Florida’s other major containerport, Miami-Dade County’s PortMiami, FECR also is investing in similar capabilities, instituting on-dock intermodal rail service with direct ship-to-rail transfers.
“In order to meet the needs of supply-chain managers, it is important for various modes of transportation to work together seamlessly,” Hertwig says.

Of course, on- and near-dock rail capabilities are by no means limited to the South Florida market.

In the largest and most congested U.S. containerport gateway, for example, a $510 million expansion of the TraPac Container Terminal that’s slated for 2016 completion includes infrastructure to make it the last Port of Los Angeles container terminal to be served by on-dock rail. Likewise, the $87 million Green Port Gateway project under way at the neighboring Port of Long Beach, to be finished early this year, includes provision of additional on-dock rail capacity.